Sep 21, 2015

The Summer Palace


I can't stress enough how bummed I was after my first trip to Beijing with my roommate, Ate Zyla. I was literally cranky on the train back to Tieling. I even had a tough time leaving the hostel. Imagine a kid who spent a day at an amusement park with no sense of time. That's how I felt; I didn't want it to end. As I sat on my bed for the last time at our hostel, I scribbled more notes on my little travel diary.

It was that time when I started believing that maybe one day, I can go backpacking across Europe as well. I have walked on the Great Wall of China, which is so far the most epic thing I have ever done in my life and that gave me the confidence to say "Anything is possible!"

I have never traveled using my own money before, that's because I never make extra money for traveling. I'm always making ends meet. I use my money to pay for my bills and to buy food - that's it! Okay, I also do some shopping (mostly thrift shopping!) and pampering at times. I'm not guilty for doing any of those because I believe those are the perks of being single. But aside from that and a few good cups of coffee from time to time, I literally have no stash money that I can use in case something horrible happens to me. But that time I worked in China, no matter how much I despised it, was the first time I had more than enough money to spend on something other than the basics. I could have saved that money, I know, but I'm pretty sure it would also be gone by now and I wouldn't even remember how I spent it. But, using that money to travel was like betting and knowing that you would never lose! It was all worth it!

I had some sort of unfinished business when I left Beijing the first time. I had to come back. First of all, I want to prove that good things don't only happen once. Second, I'm dying to socialize again (Yes, introverts socialize too!) and third, just because I can! 

So, the moment I heard that we would be having another holiday almost two months after Chinese New Year 2014, I immediately asked my Chinese friend to help me book a train ticket to Beijing. Most people at work were curious as hell as to why I would go back to the same place I visited the previous holiday. I just kept my mouth shut and let them think whatever they want to think. 

So, on April 6th 2014, I got on a midnight train with an overflowing adrenalin rush. It was a slow train and it's gonna take 8 hours before I reach the big city. I was carrying a much smaller bag then because I'll only be there for 24 hours. Everything was new, everything was different - that excites the hell out of me! We used the fast train before which only took us 5 hours to reach the city. But I had to spend the rest of the night on that midnight train lying on a very narrow bunk bed like an army in training. Seriously!


In every open compartment, instead of chairs there are 6 narrow beds, 3 on each side. You're supposed to check the the letter and number from your ticket; the bed that has the same label is your spot. A kind man checked out my ticket and pointed me to my assigned bed when he noticed I'm not Chinese and I have no idea what I'm doing. You get 1 pillow and a thick quilt. All the pillows are on the top most bed, so the people up there would be the ones distributing them to the people below them. Soon as we boarded the train and the passengers have settled, they turned off the lights to make it more conducive to sleep. I turned off my phone to save my battery and tried to get comfortable in what looked like a hanging coffin. Haha! 

It was a really bumpy ride. You can literally feel the tracks as the train moves. I kept on waking up like every two hours. I had to turn on my phone just to check the time. It feels good getting on that train with people whose language I can barely understand. But the real fun starts in the morning, when people wake up and walk along those narrow corridors, busy making breakfast (usually Chinese cup noodles), having coffee or making their way to one of those tiny restrooms. I observed everything. The way they walk and talk, everything was new to me. I tried my best to blend in and not draw too much attention to myself, but my bleached hair and huge eyes were dead giveaways. But I think I completely blew my cover when a train crew was talking to me (and I honestly did not understand anything!) and giving me back my ticket. See, when we have settled on our beds the night before, a crew came to us handing out what looked like ATM cards in exchange of our real train tickets that they put in a black foldable thing (similar to the ones they use in restaurants when you ask for your bill) . So, that morning, I realized the crew was probably getting the cards again. I looked around and when I saw people taking their cards out, I took mine out too. I just said very few English words as soft as I could, but still, people looked at me like I was a freaking unicorn. But I was already used to it. A bit annoying in a way but there's pretty much nothing I can do about it. 

My favorite part was when I had to do my morning routine on that moving train. Again, that's something you don't get to do everyday. I got my little pouch with me that has enough money in case I never find my bigger bag again after I'm done with my morning routine. My phone, passport, train ticket, tooth brush, toothpaste, tiny comb and an extra liner are also inside the said pouch. I felt like I was in a movie or something, wherein I am undercover trying to blend in (though I actually failed to do so) and on a mission to another country. You know? Those action scenes wherein it starts off as a typical quiet scene but then the main character gets attacked by some assholes and then people would get to see how much of a bad ass she really is? Yup, I imagine way too much. Haha! 

I didn't eat anything the whole time I was on the train, it's weird because I love eating. I eat even if I'm not hungry at all. But, it seems like the only time I don't feel hungry is when I am way too excited. It felt so good when we reached Beijing railway station, I can't believe I was there again! 


I made my way through the crowd and checked in at the same hostel where Ate Zy and I stayed in last time we were there. It was around 10 AM, almost exactly the same time I wrote on my time of arrival on my online reservation. After I dropped my bag and unpacked some stuff, I immediately took a shower. I was so excited to go to this place that was recommended by someone from the city, the Summer Palace. 

mandatory selfie before leaving!
Aside from researching, I also asked our tour guide before about the easiest way to get to that place. See, I can follow instructions as long as they are clear and simplified. I did exactly what our tour guide before told me. With a McDonald's to go, which I actually just shoved inside my backpack because I was too excited to eat, I marched to the subway station. It took me about 45 minutes to reach my destination. It was quite far, the furthest I've been in Beijing actually. 


There was just one transfer station and I easily found my way to the other train; the signs are pretty clear. Again, it was just a matter of guts, presence of mind and quick thinking. When I reached the station, I have no idea which way I would go towards the entrance of this Summer Palace. I just followed my instincts, and BAM! There I was!!!


The Summer Palace was included in UNESCO's World Heritage List way back December 1998. It was declared as "masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design". This is a popular recreational destination for locals and foreigners alike. With a combination of natural landscape and artificial features such as the pavilions, halls, temples and bridges, you would somehow feel like a blue blood as you stroll inside this largest and most well-preserved royal park in China. I know I did! 


I was amazed when I saw Suzhou market street from a foot bridge not too far from the entrance. It was designed pretty much the same as the ancient style of shops in Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province. The history of building this Suzhou market is very interesting. Apparently, Emperor Qianlong (from Qing Dynasty) ordered to build this commercial street near Quanzong temple for a beautiful nun who was getting homesick and wants to see her home (Suzhou City) once again. You can read the whole story here.


I saw the signs and the pathways going down and even though I was tempted to look around for souvenirs, I just decided I will explore it on my way out. 


The 17-Arch bridge is one of the main attractions here. There are about 30 bridges inside the Summer Palace but this is the largest one. It is also the only passageway to Nanhu Island. Since I walked all the way from the North Palace Gate, I figured it might be exhausting to walk back again along the East Dyke and man there are too many visitors from everywhere that time. So, I got on a ferry boat and I landed somewhere near the orchard and I came across the Marble boat.


I felt like I was on my own version of Survivor. I had no idea where I was headed, I just know that I want to go there and I have to go there. I like how things unfold on its own. It was like dancing on a very familiar rhythm with your eyes closed. The fact that I arrived there safely without getting mugged or something was so empowering. I never thought I could actually do it. Maybe my early exposure to commuting has something to do with my badass attitude about traveling. I've got years of training and I was finally able to apply that in my first solo trip to Beijing. 



I just traced my footsteps out of the palace after I was done roaming around Suzhou market. On my way back to the subway though, I saw this bus and it reminded me where I was heading that night, haha, San Li Tun


I got back to my hostel at late afternoon. I just rested a little bit and tried to watch TV though I can't understand the shows. I dozed off a little because I really got tired from walking around the palace.


When I woke up, I freshened up a bit, put on a little black dress...ready for a much awaited night life and reunion with the Filipino band I met on my first trip to Beijing, who by the way are my good friends now!

compliments~ ehem! I'll never forget this Pina Colada!

I had a great time at Swing Bar that night. It was just magical in many ways. It just felt so good to chat with the other Filipinos and enjoy live music even just for one night! It was so cool sitting with the band every time they take a break. We talked and laughed a lot and they introduced me to their other friends as well. It was that time when I realized I was actually living in the moment again. That time, all the bad things that happened in my life were set aside. That time, I only cared about the people I was hanging out with, the music that was playing and the drinks right in front of me. Aside from the free Pina Colada I got from a dude who works at the bar, I got a few shots of tequila too. It was definitely a night I will always remember!





































































No comments:

Post a Comment

I wanna hear something from you!